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Oversight of tech classes at issue

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LOGAN — Applied Technology Education in Utah would be best governed under the State Board of Regents, higher education officials concluded at their monthly meeting on Thursday.

ATE has long been the stepchild of both public education and higher education.

But lawmakers fear the dual management of similar activities has led to inefficiencies and confusion. During the last legislative session, they created the Applied Technology Education Task Force and told its members to come up with a better system of governance.

Technology training is currently delivered by nearly all of the state school districts, Applied Technology Centers and Service Regions.

The state's junior colleges — specifically Salt Lake Community College and Utah Valley State College — offer similar training for college credit.

"So is this board committed to applied technology education?" asked chairman Charlie Johnson. "Because there's a lot of skepticism about that. We need to demonstrate by our actions that we're ready."

Some board members argued that higher education has already proven its ability and willingness to oversee technical training.

"It's already working," said board member Jerry Atkin. "Most of the adult ATE training being done is already done by this board."

"Either Salt Lake Community College or Utah Valley State College does more ATE training by itself than all of the ATCs in the state," added UVSC president Kerry Romesburg.

Regents and presidents agreed to lobby individual lawmakers on the issue before the next legislative session begins.

But SLCC president Frank Budd had this warning:

"Many here see this as a turf issue, and it's not. We need to continually emphasize that this is a role and mission issue for education in the state of Utah," he said.

"If left on its own, this (system) will drift, and 10 years from now it will be much more complicated. More than trying to grab someone else's territory, public education needs to understand that it should be funded for what it's capable of doing."

State School Board member Joyce Richards, who has chaired the Applied Technology Committee at the State Office of Education for the past year, said she was neither surprised by the regents' discussions nor in agreement with their conclusions.

"We (public education) feel like we've done a really good job. The thing people don't realize is that we start technology training in the elementary schools," she said.

From early grades, students are are introduced to different work environments and shown how basic subjects like math, spelling and English are used in the world of work, Richards said.

"And we have a really good partnership with the public high schools and the ATCs," she said. "The mix of high school students and adult students who have . . . come back for more training seems to be a good chemistry."

But higher education officials say they have no intention of interfering with technology training on the secondary school level.

"We're not proposing to educate secondary students. That remains the responsibility of the Board of Education," said Gary Wixom, assistant commissioner for applied technology education for the Utah System of Higher Education.

"We cannot do it all," added Budd. "Cooperative (efforts) are already under way, like the sharing of facilities on our new Jordan campus. Jordan School District is building a 90,000-square-foot building on our property. We will share that building, and probably a great deal of instruction, in the years to come."

Lawmakers will hear a formal response from public education officials to the regent's suggestions at the task force's next meeting on July 13.

E-MAIL: mtitze@desnews.com